18/09/2017 16:53 SAST | Updated 18/09/2017 16:53 SAST

The ANC Is A Party At War With Itself And The Casualties Are Piling Up

Factional and power battles are ravaging the party in the run-up to its national conference in December.

Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters
A young boy runs past communal toilets adorned with election posters for the ANC in Soweto township, outside Johannesburg, February 10, 2006.


Almost a decade ago, on his 90th birthday, former president Nelson Mandela said: "Let no individual, section, faction or group ever regard itself as greater than the organisation."

His warning to the ANC has apparently fallen on deaf ears.

Now, ahead of the ANC's national conference in December, where a new leader will be chosen, the party is tormented by factional chaos. Political killings dominate news headlines, legal ramifications face members who speak out, and dirty tricks against frontrunners somehow find their way into the media.

The ANC is at war with itself.

It is sufficiently clear that in December it will not be a battle for the soul of the ANC. But a battle for the corpse that is ANC

— IG: @MbuyiseniNdlozi (@MbuyiseniNdlozi) September 13, 2017

Looking down the barrel of a loaded factional gun
The ANC is split between two factions: the Cyril Ramaphosa grouping that believes in the party's traditional values, suggesting that the deputy president is best suited to succeed the head of state, and on the other end, the unwavering pro-Zuma camp that has thrown its weight behind the president's preferred candidate, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

The battle lines were most visible during the party's policy conference in July where the one faction blocked the other on vital policy deliberations.

Foto24 via Getty Images
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma are battling it out to become next president.

The Northern Cape rejected KwaZulu-Natal's proposal for the loser of the presidential race to automatically become deputy president; Zuma supporters waged and lost a contest to brand the enemy of the ANC and economic transformation as "white monopoly capital"; and the same group hunted after vocal Ramaphosa backer, Derek Hanekom, after his comments on the non-confidence vote in the president.

The feuds are mainly between the frontrunners' respective camps across the country, which are fighting it out to take control of provincial executive committees ahead of December –- a prime example being the pro-Zuma camp in its KZN stronghold being ousted by the courts.

The KZN ANC Conference that elected Sihle Zikalala was declared null and void by Court. So Senzo Mchunu is Chair. Well done Adv Ngcukaitobi.

— Floyd Shivambu (@FloydShivambu) September 12, 2017

The biggest voting province, historically being Zuma-aligned, staged a united front at Polokwane and Mangaung. But the eradication of key political bigwigs, such as Senzo Mchunu -- who has now thrown his weight behind Ramaphosa -- is likely to be felt in December.

Last week, Pietermaritzburg High Court Judge Jerome Nguni declared that the outcome of the eighth KZN provincial elective conference held in November 2015 was unlawful and void, throwing the provincial executive committee into dismay.

The casualties are piling up
The contest for political power has resulted in 33 political murders -- most of whom were involved with the ANC -- since January 2016 in KZN alone. About 20 of those murders were in the run-up to the local government elections that year.

Most recently, former ANC Youth League secretary-general Sindiso Magaqa was killed after a hit on him and two other councillors in July.

#ZweliMkhizeInDurban-killings in KZN is sad. Completely unacceptable. We worked hard to reduce political violence

— ZweliMkhize (@ANCTGMkhize) September 12, 2017

But the effects of factional battles and inter-party power struggles are not only being felt in the lower ranks of the ANC. At the top, MPs are being targeted for their anti-Zuma stance.

Makhosi Khoza was sidelined as chairperson of Parliament's public service and administration portfolio committee and is facing disciplinary proceedings following her continued calls for Zuma to step down.

Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters
Makhosi Khoza is being targeted for speaking out against the president.

Following the eighth failed motion of no confidence in Zuma, Hanekom -- who hinted that he would be voting against the president -- was served with a letter from ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe threatening for him to motivate why he should remain as chairperson of the party's disciplinary committee.

There are also tensions brewing in the party's leadership structures as candidates vie against Zuma's favourite.

Ramaphosa's personal emails were hacked and leaked to the Sunday Independent, which reported on its contents, describing how he allegedly had extramarital affairs with a number of women, some of whom included students. The deputy president immediately labelled this as a smear campaign.

#Ramaphosa I was told they are building a file on me, that [the campaign] would even go on to be violent. They are going to get desperate.

— CR17SIYAVUMA (@CR17SIYAVUMA) September 3, 2017

And now that ANC treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize has announced his willingness to run for the top spot, a new book revealed how he allegedly tried to manipulate Zuma's rape accuser, Fezekile 'Khwezi' Kuzwayo, into dropping the charges against the president. Mkhize also dismissed these reports.

When the dust settles
The party's reputation in the public sphere is indeed being bludgeoned by allegations of state capture and corruption, by growing fissures within its alliance, and by infighting within its own ranks.

The ANC's performance in the 2016 local government elections was devastating. Its support bombed to 54 percent last year -- a decrease of 12 percent in a matter of two years.

Even its staunch alliance partners are starting to grow weary.

At its national congress in August, the SA Communist Party resolved to contest future elections independently from the ANC and Cosatu has rejected Zuma outright.

Getty Images
Another ANC MP Derek Hanekom, is also facing disciplinary action.

Even the ANC's top brass is concerned.

ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu recently warned that, if the party did not confront its challenges, it would fall apart and lose any credibility needed to contest an election.

We are @MYANC MPs , our mandate is derived from ANC decisions , resoultions and values . We are not free agents or groups of individuals .

— Jackson Mthembu (@JacksonMthembu_) April 7, 2017

To remedy it all, provincial leaders from Gauteng, Mpumalanga, KZN, the Free State and North West at the weekend met and proposed that the party do away with slate politics. Instead, they want a "consensus leadership" ahead of December.

They want the party to come to a decision on its leadership beforehand and vote accordingly, rendering any form of contest obsolete. But this is a mammoth undertaking only three months to the day, and with the factions as split as they are, the question remains as to how the party will reach this consensus.

What is inevitable is that one slate will come out at the top in December. The other will probably not be left deterred.

The ANC will have to find a way to manage the losing faction well after the dust settles in December or the only loser in this factional war will be the party itself.